I have an early memory of a July 4th parade. I must have been pretty little, because I remember looking way up at a fire truck, and being showered with candy. I felt so special, as if the candy were just for me.
This image recently came back to me, as I was reading Ephesians chapter four. In this chapter, Paul writes about Christ ascending and giving gifts to his people (Eph. 4:8). Paul quotes from Psalm 68:18, which speaks of God’s triumph in freeing his people from slavery in Egypt.
This psalm hails God as the true King, who marched from Mount Sinai in the time of Moses, into the temple in Jerusalem, during the time of David. In David’s time, the Ark of the Covenant was carried up the mount into the temple in a festive procession.
Paul tells us, God’s ascending march was completed by Christ. Just as the ancient kings led captives in their train and received gifts from other kings (Ps. 68:29), God made captive all the powers of darkness, through Christ’s ascension on the cross. As all the kingdoms of the earth are called to sing praises to God, awesome in his sanctuary, every knee shall bow to the ascended Christ, when he returns (Ps. 68:32-35; Phil 2:6-11).
Paul lists prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, that were given in order to build up the body of Christ and prepare God’s people for works of service. These gifts are a result of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s glorification (John 16:14; John: 15:8).
When I read these verses, I pictured the big fire truck that I saw as a child in the July 4th parade. Important people sat high up on the truck. They threw out candy to children waiting with outstretched hands.
I can picture the triune God leaning over the edge of a grand float in a victory parade, stooping down, to pass out gifts. He has a special gift for me, and for everyone else too. I picture God with a big smile on his face, delighted to pass out gifts that make us happy. There is enough “sweet candy” for everyone.
In a July 4th parade, people are united in their celebration of independence. Because of Christ’s victory, freeing captives from sin, there is a gift parade. Gifts are passed out that build up the church in unity and love.
I invite you to comment and tell us what was special about your July 4th celebration!